Techstars Day 4: Preparing for the Slaughterhouse

This is a blog post in a series written during the first fortnight of our participation in Techstars London 2015.

What did you do today?

We signed a deposit document!

We signed a deposit document!

Our big achievement today was making progress on our offer for the place we found to live – we’ve going through due diligence now, having signed an initial agreement and handed over a holding fee! Exciting times!

In the morning, we met with a TechStars mentor to talk about our product. One of the key pieces of feedback has been the negative impact of false positives (sending messages indicating someone may be in danger, unnecessarily) on both the mental state of those receiving them (especially if the user is out of power) and consequentially the reputation of the product after a few embarrassing press stories.

Tomorrow we have our first 2-hour deep dive with the TechStars directors (Jon Bradford, Max Kelly) and the Entrepreneur in Residence, Benjamin Southworth. In that, we’re really going to deep dive in the company, the product and the business model. Definitely expecting it to be hard-hitting and for the focus on the business to change a lot – but we’ll see!

iMac's are perfectly designed to hold 8 pink stickies - a spec not mentioned by Apple

iMac’s are perfectly designed to hold 8 pink stickies – a spec not mentioned by Apple

Sam: Today I started to invest significant time in the Analysis / Artificial Intelligence system that monitors journeys to detect incidents.

What did you learn?

Sam: I really learnt the impact the press could have on the general perception of our product, and how much of an impact a single mistake made by the analysis system could have on the business. I also learnt that the bottom of an iMac can hold approximately 8 sticky notes 🙂

 

Techstars Day 3: Moving on From Homelessness

This is a blog post in a series written during the first fortnight of our participation in Techstars London 2015.

What did you do today?

Julie in a flat we viewed

Julie in a flat we viewed

We’ve been in London for four days now, but are still living in a hotel close to the office, trying to find somewhere to live in London, preferably that’s close to the office. After another few hours trawling the property listings (and joking with the program director that we’d be sleeping under the desks) we secured two property viewings. We talked about studio vs two-bedroom place with space for family/friends/”staff”, and decided the cost-benefit of the two-bedroom place was worth it so made an offer.

Although next week is ‘Mentor Madness’ (check out yesterdays post for more), we have a meeting with a TechStars mentor tomorrow so have been preparing for that, including working on possible high-level business models to get his opinion on.

Finally after doing our daily push-ups, sit-ups and squats, we decided that it was worth the investment to get Julie an iMac since we will be here for 6 months – a decision that took a very long time!

Sam: I had a CTO meeting at 8:30, where we talked about the issues CTO’s have apart from writing code – it’s a common misconception that all a CTO does in an early stage startup is write code, whereas in fact it can be quite a small part of the job. After that, I had the awesome surprise that one of the Hackstars (Eduard) had fixed another of the website tasks, fixing a broken (and difficult) animation and finishing a new interface for the mailing list sign-up.

I also made significant progress on the app, fixing up various functionality (the new app is now fully functional, but there’s still more UX stuff to add before it’s user-review ready).

What did you learn?

Charger Madness!

Charger Madness!

Sam: I learnt about Sequence Based Processing, from the context of using it in our Artificial Intelligence / Analysis application. I also saw first-hand the lengths some hackers will go to, to avoid paying Apple any extra money (photo on left).

Quotes?

Someone at TechStars: “Guys – we love you – but you still don’t have a business plan”

Reason why we have not fully developed our business plan yet:

Winston Churchill: “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.”

Techstars Day 2: Getting a Foundation.

This is a blog post in a series written during the first fortnight of our participation in Techstars London 2015.

What did you do today?

The crux of the TechStars program is serving as a mentor-driven accelerator. Teams will meet with over 80 people in just 2 weeks – known as ‘Mentor Madness.’ No. Big. Deal. Max Kelly gave our teams and overview on how to engage and work with future mentors ranging from email etiquette, asking for help, and building authentic relationships. It is inevitable that mentors will provide conflicting feedback known as ‘mentor whiplash’ throughout the frenzy of soaking up their knowledge. They warned all the start-ups to understand you will need to decide, synthesize, and act.

The rest of the day was spent searching for a flat across London. We have called so many agents and written about numerous properties, and still remain homeless. We seemed pretty optimistic that we’d be able to get one property – though we are negotiating for a short-term let.

Sam working with Eduard (Hackstar) on the new website

Sam working with Eduard (Hackstar) on the new website

Sam: After flat hunting I started working with two Hacksociates (a group of 5 Associates [bad-ass business gurus] and 4 Hackstars [world-class engineers] who are here to help with our startups) to fix up a few points on our website, including adding a floating ‘modal’ sign-up form, saving users from scrolling all the way to the bottom to sign-up. In the evening, there was some time to continue work on the app, adding a bunch of small user interface features.

What did you learn?

Sam: Cookies have massive value and will be super helpful in bribing various Hacksociates to help with our projects. Also: days go quickly, even 15 hour ones. I’ve been super-mega busy all day and only got chance to write about half the code I had planned.

Quotes?

Advice on how to rally and maintain top level mentors:

“Seriously, just don’t suck at communicating.”

Techstars Day 1: Let the Countdown Begin

This is a blog post in a series written during the first fortnight of our participation in Techstars London 2015.

And the countdown to Demo Day begins …

What did you do today?

Sam and Julie in-front of the TechStars countdown clock

Sam and Julie in-front of the TechStars countdown clock

We strolled into Warner Yard with our two stuffed penguins, hot pink t-shirts, and our MacBooks ready to take on TechStars. After we were introduced to the space and the people behind the scenes to make this program a success, we got a general overview for the next 99 days (a time that’s going to disappear very quickly, as a large count-down screen constantly reminds us!). Basically, we are told to – Do. More. Faster. The next few months are going to be filled with tons of feedback and criticism as our business ideas are ripped apart and put back together. It will be extremely important to be intellectually honest or what is working and not working and establish regular rhythms. Or we are bound to fumble in the start-up journey.

We decided as a company, we’d focus on a few daily non-negotiable:

  1. Daily Standings: Which consist of what you did yesterday, what you need to do today, and any bottlenecks or headlines.
  2. Blog: We are going to commit to writing a post. Every. Single. Day. It is our insider journey through the TechStars program.
  3. Exercise: We must not forget the realities of the world and sacrafic on our bodies – therefore, we are going to do 100’s (or hundo’s) which are 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 calf raises, and 100 lunges. Every day. If you don’t do them – you owe the partner lunch the next day!
On the scavenger hunt, we passed the inspiration for Diagon Alley

On the scavenger hunt, we passed the inspiration for Diagon Alley

The afternoon was filled with a surprise scavenger hunt! Teams were split up into random pairings and given 7 clues to rush around London. The clues were actually much harder than anticipated and we relied on Google. Sam’s team figured out a way to get a free Uber ride and used that to propel them into a running start. Julie, on a different team, ran, literally, all across London as they gathered all of the clues. In the end, neither Julie nor Sam were on the successfully winning team (although Sam’s team did make it back first!). Instead, the team that won actually came in last for the race, but spent a considerable amount of time doing all the bonus points to make up for the lack of speed.

The evening ended with a social as the founders got-to-know each other over drinks and light dinner.

What did you learn?

Interestingly, there were a few points that were made by Max Kelly during his presentation that really hit it home for our team on ensuring we have good communication architecture and brutal honesty with each other.

  1. Point #1: There are most certainly teams that will not be working together at the end of this experience.
  2. Point #2: People may need to move around in their titles as it will continue to be an ebb and flow on learning what is needed and works in the market.

Quotes of the Day

Max Kelly on the experience and us at Techstars

“Get something out of everything, everyday.”